how to write a marketing plan? step by step guide + templates

perhaps the most vital aspect of any
business is the marketing function a business can’t really get off the ground
until it sells something a marketing plan provides a roadmap for running and
coordinating marketing programs it helps align the many people and organizations
involved in commercializing your products and services a formal written
marketing plan is a great way to document the planning process it serves
many purposes but a marketing plan doesn’t have to be a long and formal
document even a simple one that answers these three questions will help where
are we now where are we going and how do we get there first it captures all the
things you and your team have learned about the market the competition and
your customers this information is critical because it becomes the
supporting evidence for the strategies that you and your team decide to pursue
second the plan serves as a tool to help you align the organization marketing
involves many people so you’ll need to get everyone on board and going in the
same direction the written plan becomes a source document to create
presentations to conduct training and to give directions to external partners
believe me you’ll use it a lot finally the written plan lays out a coherent and
coordinated set of marketing programs with schedules in budgets so you can run
a smooth operation to write the plan don’t wait until the very end of the
planning process I like to start writing it right from the very beginning here’s
a tip that makes it easy create a blank PowerPoint presentation with just the
headings of each component on a separate page and keep it with you during team
meetings as you collect information or make key decisions write or type it into
the appropriate slide that helps you keep the document up to date as you move
through the process when you have enough written material go ahead and create a
first draft but be sure to date the draft as you’ll be making regular
updates and revisions a written marketing plan is I die
Namek document and you should expect to make changes to it as conditions in the
market change if you create a great plan and update it regularly it’ll help you
stay ahead of the competition you there are five steps to writing a
marketing plan step one is to analyze the market this is where you explore
important issues about market conditions your potential customers and the
competition this part of your plan is called the situation analysis once
you’ve analyzed the market you need to describe your strategy for achieving
success here you lay out your approach to segmenting the market targeting
specific customers and how you will position your products and services in
the marketplace next is the tactical section which includes your product or
service programs your pricing approach your promotion in marketing
communications programs and your channel design these are often called the four
PS of your marketing plan a good marketing plan explains how you will
implement the various tactics described in the last step it’s here where you
describe what steps you need to take when those steps will happen and who’s
responsible for getting the job done and finally is the financial section of your
plan you need to describe a budget that outlines the financial and other
resources needed to implement your marketing plan here you also lay out
your forecasts of what you expect in terms of future revenues or other
business goals this section of the plan may also describe how you will measure
success you can start the marketing planning process any time but an
important consideration is how and when your company does its annual business
planning process that’s where the company develops financial forecasts
investments budgets and so on generally speaking there are two ways to connect
the marketing planning with business planning some companies start the
marketing planning process first right around the middle of the fiscal year
each marketing team develops their own sales revenue forecasts for their
assigned products they also develop a budget to spend on marketing programs
that they think are needed to achieve those revenue forecasts
those forecasts and budgets are combined into a company level revenue forecast
and budget and that’s fed directly into the annual business planning process but
some companies do just the opposite they start with the business planning process
where they develop an overall revenue goal and spending target those are
divided and given to the individual marketing teams those teams now have to
take those targets and develop the best marketing plan they can to achieve those
goals so talk to your finance partner to find out which approach your company
uses another good idea is to create a calendar of when you’ll write each
section of the plan a good marketer is disciplined and doesn’t cut corners in
writing a marketing plan it takes time and lots of work but in the end it’s
worth it good marketers know the value of a
diverse and talented team of colleagues to help write their marketing plan
you’ll need to draw on their expertise their market knowledge possibly there
are resources and their network your team will include colleagues inside the
company as well as external partners like advertising and promotional firms
let’s review the various roles of your cross-functional team first is finance
your finance department plays a very important role in making sure you have
sufficient budget dollars to execute your plan finance partners will also
help you measure the results of your marketing efforts and help you find ways
to improve it in the next business cycle finance partners have a good eye for
whether a recommendation in your marketing plan makes sense financially
marketing research is another key role you’ll need on your team your company
might have a separate marketing research department or it may outsource it but
either way you’ll need their help understanding customer needs testing new
product concepts or perhaps testing a new advertising message your marketing
plan needs to explain what you know about the market so make sure you
involve your colleagues in marketing research next is your technical team
these are the people who develop your products and services they might be
engineers or scientists in an R&D department or perhaps software
developers it depends on the nature of your business
you’ll need their input to your marketing plan so you can explain what
new products might be coming down the pipeline now most companies have a sales
function and you should enlist their help in developing a marketing plan
after all they’re on the frontline day-to-day and they have a lot of
insights about your customers and your competition they’ll also have ideas
about the selling tools they need to succeed be sure to get their input
depending on your business you may also want to involve colleagues from
manufacturing or operations these are the people who make the products or
liver a service a good customer support team for example might have great
insights about customer complaints or service issues external partners might
include your advertising agency your branding company a public relations firm
and perhaps a marketing consultant they’re there to help you succeed so
make them a part of the team from the very start once you’ve identified the
key players on your team make sure they’re aware of the schedule you’ve
created if the team members know their role and understand your expectations
you can count on them to help you write a great marketing plan you before you venture out into the
marketplace with your products and services you’ve got to have a realistic
understanding of where you are today after all you don’t want to pick a fight
with your competition until you know what you’ve got to fight with this part
of the plan is called the situation analysis there are four parts to it
first is the market analysis analyzing a market means estimating how many
potential customers you might be able to sell your products and services to when
analyzing any market you want to group customers into three types first are the
customers that already buy from you today
second are customers that buy the same products and services you offer but from
a competitor and third are potential customers that might be interested in
your type of products and services but not buying from anybody now estimate the
potential number of customers that you might be able to capture for each of the
three groups you do this so you can decide where you want to concentrate
your marketing strategy in marketing it’s the old adage fish where the fish
are next you want to analyze how your company compares to your competition a
good tool for this is called the competitive matrix to create a matrix
list your company and your competitors across the top then down the side list
the things that you want to compare things like size market share strengths
and weaknesses and especially the key strategy elements like the value
propositions what does each company have in terms of key resources and how do
they use those resources to acquire and retain customers now let’s look at your
customers customers buy things for a variety of reasons but some are more
important than others if you know what’s most important to them you can appeal to
that need when trying to get them to buy or you can try to raise the sense of
importance they place on another factor you also need to measure how they rate
your product versus others and how it delivers each benefit
they may have misperceptions that you need to change you may be able to
emphasize a key feature of your product that is better than your competition
this analysis will be critical later when you begin segmenting customers to
complete the situation analysis you need to test the features of your product and
services compared to the same features on your competitors you need to
determine which features perform better than the competition which perform the
same and which perform not as well when you complete the analysis take a close
look are there features that need to be improved
are there certain competitors you want to avoid or possibly go after based on
product performance now keep in mind that the data and information that you
put into the situation analysis it doesn’t have to be perfectly accurate it
just needs to be realistic that allows you to step back and see what customers
to go after what to emphasize when marketing to them and what competitor is
to go after or avoid the situation analysis is an important step so you
want to take your time here a good technique is to leverage the team you
created to write the plan I suggest you break the situation analysis into the
various sections and assign the writing of each section to the team member most
qualified to do it having a good understanding of your situation can go a
long way to setting you up for success as you write your marketing plan the heart of any marketing plan is your
strategy this is where you describe how you plan to win in the marketplace the
strategy section has three parts first is segmentation where you break your
customers into homogeneous groups this helps you be efficient with your
marketing resources by focusing only on the most relevant customers there are
four ways to segment customers demographic is where you group customers
by their characteristics such as income level age gender or their height and
weight it’s useful for certain products or services that deliver a benefit
specifically tied to that characteristic if you’re marketing a shampoo for
redheads for example then you’d want to group customers by hair color geographic
segmentation groups customers by where they are physically knowing where your
customers are helps you know where to place stores for example and where to
communicate or sell to them behavioral segmentation is grouping customers by
the things they do it can be things such as who they purchased from now how
frequently they purchase or their price sensitivity finally is psychographic
segmentation which is how customers think their attitudes about the benefits
they seek in a product an example of psychographic benefit would be the need
for prestige or need for convenience segmenting this way tends to be very
powerful in targeting you make decisions on which specific segments to go after
it’s a process of narrowing down your audience to a selected group let’s go
back to our shampoo example using all four types of segmentation you might
have a target audience like this women over 40 with red hair who live in
certain metropolitan areas who buy shampoo once a month and who seek the
benefit of natural looking hair color now you have a specific identifiable
group of customers for the next step called positioning positioning
is determining how you want your customers to think about your products
versus the competition so they’re more likely to buy yours it may seem a little
abstract but positioning happens up here in the mind of the consumer think of the
consumers mind is a three-dimensional space and in that space they form
beliefs about products and services in a particular category and you can change
those beliefs so they have a favorable opinion of your product you do that by
making a claim and by supporting that claim with credible reasons to believe
or RT B’s as we call them the claim becomes your positioning statement what
you’ll say to customers when you communicate to them about buying your
product let’s use our shampoo example a positioning statement might look like
this for women over 40 with red hair that want to look their best our shampoo
gives you a more natural looking color to your hair than our competitors
shampoo now to support this positioning claim you might include photographs of
customers who have used the product and perhaps some testimonials of how much
they liked it notice how I included my target audience in the positioning
statement as well as the primary benefit that they want and that our shampoo can
deliver so what benefit should you emphasize go back to your situation
analysis this is where you compared your product to the competition to find out
what benefit you deliver better than they do when you position your offering
around your strengths you’ll get an important edge over the competition and
that’s what great marketing is all about a great marketing strategy only comes to
life when you take action now it’s time to dive in and write the tactical
section of your marketing plan this is where you describe in detail your
product or service programs your pricing approach your promotion and marketing
communications programs and your channel design in marketing we call these the
four PS by product and service programs these refer to all of the aspects of how
products and services perform their job in delivering benefits it includes
things like the design of the product how it feels to use it the packaging of
the product and the people and processes involved in dealing with customers now
be sure to describe the entire customer buying experience which typically
includes the following steps first is the need recognition phase this is where
customers realize they want something the next step is information search
where they gather information from a wide variety of sources now this is a
critical step because this is when a customer is most receptive to your
message once a customer gathers information they evaluate the
alternatives based on what features are most important and which product does
the best job in delivering those features eventually they go to the
purchase phase where they actually buy the product now you might think that the
buying process ends here with the final purchase but there’s one last step
called the post purchase behavior phase once customers start using the product
they compare the results with their expectations pricing involves two things
setting the actual price that customers will pay and communicating those prices
in an effective way the price of your product or service
implies their value that the consumer should expect from buying it and using
it your written plan should list the prices you intend to charge and why
they’re set at that level describe where and when prices will be communicated to
the customer this might be a simple price sticker on your packaging or you
might have prices on your website from Oshin includes all the things you say
outside of the company to the market this is where you broadcast the value
proposition and other information about the product it includes advertising
in-store promotions email campaigns perhaps social media and sales promotion
your written plan should outline the specific programs in terms of where and
when you’ll promote your products and finally distribution these are the
programs that create an effective pathway to get the product from the
factory into the customers hands somebody has to take the product ship it
store it place it on the shelves sell it and possibly service it once the sale is
made including your written plan the specific
details of where customers can buy your products which might include store
locations online distributors and so on to be an effective marketing plan all
four P’s have to work together to convey the value proposition no one of the four
PS can carry the load a good marketer uses all the tactical tools available to
make the biggest impact possible once you’re confident you have a
thorough comprehensive marketing plan for your business you need to take steps
to implement the actions outlined in the plan here are the specific factors you
should address first is how and when you’ll communicate details about the
plan make a list of specific audiences or individuals that need to hear about
it then write in the schedule with exact dates and locations for these
presentations next are the marketing programs that you created in your
tactical section for each program I like to use a simple framework that describes
who what when where and how this section should describe who is responsible for
the program it should show the timeline they have to complete the program
including when implementation starts and when it finishes you should also explain
where the implementation actions occur and maybe some details on how your team
will implement that program finally you want to set up key performance
indicators or KPIs for short key performance indicators help you keep
track of your overall strategy and your individual marketing programs they alert
you when it’s time to intervene and take action to get things back on track
without KPIs you’re flying blind so to speak and you run the risk of falling
short of your overall goal now to be most effective
each KPI should be quantifiable and measurable you can have as many as you
want but don’t measure a KPI just because you have the data if you’re not
going to use it don’t bother it’s a waste of time measure something only if
you plan to take action from it that’s why I like to set thresholds around each
one each KPI should have a target of what you expect to happen plus a high
and low number around that target for those thresholds you and your planning
team should agree in advance what action you’ll take if those thresholds are
exceeded here’s an example assume you create a KPI about the number of new
customers acquired each month you set your target at 500 and you also
specify a high and low threshold of 600 and 400 respectively if your actual
customers per month is more than 600 you might consider taking an action such as
reducing advertising spending or in the low end if you’re below 400 you could
consider increasing sales incentives good marketers not only reach their
marketing goals but they also know whether those goals were achieved the
way they expected them to be achieved they also take immediate action when
they detect something is going in the wrong direction
a well-written marketing plan will help your team do just that Marketing takes time and money so it’s
important that you develop a budget in a forecast of what you expect in terms of
business results let’s look at each of these a good budget helps you allocate
the right amount of resources to the right marketing programs to make the
most impact now there are two ways to develop a budget you can decide on how
much you have to spend in total and then allocate it some companies do this by
taking a percentage of sales revenue as the total budget for marketing that
amount then is assigned to different teams and programs I call this the
top-down approach the other approach is from the bottom up
each marketing team develops a budget to spend on marketing programs that they
think are needed to achieve a revenue forecast and then those budgets are
combined into a company level budget if you recruited a finance member to your
marketing planning team they’ll be able to tell you what approach your company
uses whichever approach you take you still need to decide where to spend the
money and how much to spend how much you spend depends on a number of factors
look at each of your tactical programs the four P’s product price promotion and
place estimate the required spending in each one for example do you need to
spend money to upgrade your product or its packaging how much do you need to
spend on marketing communications to reach a sufficient number of people and
still achieve the communications objective what are your sales people and
distributors need to do their jobs effectively next is your forecast or
what you expect to achieve as a result of implementing your marketing plan now
you can set any type of goal whether it be a revenue forecast
perhaps units sold or maybe new customers acquired and so on for a
marketing goal to be the most effective it should meet the following criteria
first it should be specific just saying that your goal is to increase market
share that wouldn’t be specific enough
increasing market share from 15% to 17% is much better as a goal because it’s
specific second the goal should be
setting a goal that can’t be measured will become frustrating for you and the
team especially when you try to gauge your progress in reaching it next the
goal must be attainable setting an unrealistically high goal won’t do you
any good in fact it could hurt your campaign by causing you to spend more
marketing dollars than is warranted the fourth criteria is relevant that means
the goal is directly related to your marketing strategy and finally the goal
must be time bound meaning that the goal will be achieved during a specific
period of time a year or perhaps a quarter or even monthly once you’ve
estimated what each program will cost you’ll probably need to make some tough
choices and this is a great time to use the talents of your marketing planning
team let them help you decide in my experience a team decisions ends up
being better than any single individual decision after all you’re in this
together so put them to work in helping you develop the most effective budgets
and forecasts possible an effective marketing plan is one that
lays out a coordinated set of strategies and tactics to win in the marketplace at
some point in the process you’ll need to gain support for that plan and perhaps
the most important audience is your senior management they’re the ones who
allocate financial and human resources to various projects in your company
without their full support you may end up not getting what you need here are
some tips on how to make a big impact with senior leaders when presenting your
marketing plan first try to lead with the story perhaps focus on a customer
who had a great result using the product this is a really good way to remind
people how your products bring value to customers next share what’s changed in
the marketplace what new threats or new products or perhaps trends are out there
that are creating a challenge for you we call this creating the burning platform
you want people to understand the difficult situation you’re up against
then share the process you went through to create the marketing plan give credit
to your team members it builds your credibility when you’ve collaborated
with a cross-functional team now be as brief as possible because you probably
won’t have a lot of time you should be prepared with different length
presentations for example you should have a 10 minute version a 30 minute
version and a 1 hour version really savvy marketers also know how to
present their strategy in 30 seconds or less the so called elevator speech
afterall it’s all about getting people on board now you don’t have to share
every detail about your plan just the highlights present the market conditions
the competitive situation and your strategy in terms of who you’re
targeting and how your positioning approach will convert customers be
completely upfront about the weaknesses or risks with your plan you gain trust
when you’re upfront and honest about potential issues then share your
forecasted revenue and budget needs make sure they completely understand your
assumptions take your time here if you see that someone has a different
view around the assumptions clarify it on the spot not aligning around the
assumptions can create real problems for you later remind them that funding your
marketing plan is an investment not a cost assure them that you’re committed
to getting them a good ROI return on investment given their experience be
sure to ask them for feedback on ways to improve your plan finish the
presentation by asking them for their support it’s the old sales adage always
ask for the order you’re there to get approval so look them straight in the
eye and ask for it hey you’ve invested a lot of time to write a great marketing
plan so now it’s time to gain support from senior managers great marketers
show passion and enthusiasm for the products and services they manage to do
just that your retina ting plan is a great tool to
help educate some very important audiences if you created a
cross-functional team to help you write the plan those team members can help
spread the word but there are two other audiences that may need special
attention first is your sales force they’ll need to understand your
marketing plan because they play a key role implementing it the first thing
they need to know is your strategy especially your value proposition they
should know who the target market is and they should know where and how to find
them share your customer analysis with them what buying factors are most
important to the target audience once they understand your strategy give them
the tactical tools they need to sell the product first they need to understand
how the product works and how it compares feature by feature to the
competitor’s product next you should share your pricing strategy in how
prices are communicated explain how the price was determined in relation to the
value delivered now you might get some resistance here because salespeople
generally like the prices to be low that’s why it’s essential they
understand how pricing supports the overall positioning finally share any
selling tools you’ve created to make their job easier these could include
product brochures or tools to demonstrate the product you might even
have a suggested selling script for them to use the second key audience is your
internal or external marketing communications agencies now your
marketing plan has all the information to create a creative brief it’s a short
overview of a creative assignment it answers key questions like what needs to
be created how it’ll be used what are the deliverables for the project and
when are the deadlines it’s like a contract whatever format you use it
should include the following first give an overview of your situation analysis
next describe the objective of the creative piece is it a commercial a
sales brochure a website and so on then describe the target audience who are we
to the more precise and detailed you can be the better next outline your value
proposition and the reasons to believe or are tb’s what are the supporting
rationale and emotional reasons to believe and by the agency may use these
points in the creative piece complete your creative brief with the schedule
and a budget for the project but keep in mind that the creative brief should be
brief don’t just hand the agency your marketing plan and expect them to sort
through it a creative brief is much more detailed than your plan but very focused
on just one specific marketing program in that plan with the proper guidance
from our well-written marketing plan your support teams will work better
together to achieve your business goals you

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14 thoughts on “how to write a marketing plan? step by step guide + templates

  1. How do I segment customers for a B2B business? A demographic segmentation wouldnt apply.

  2. Got a job to do the graphics and marketing of a company. Don't know much about marketing. Watching this on the job!

  3. Is this right?
    I must search and analyse the consumer insight to find the competitive advantage and use it in marketing plan?
    When and where should I use the competitive advantage?
    Is this just useful for campaigns and can not be used in marketing plan?

  4. Love to Learn by reading? complete your knowledge by getting your -13- business books bundle |

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